The gothic cathedral here in Cologne took more than 600 years to build and was seen as a symbol of European strength.
It survived the Second World War when the rest of the city was destroyed. Last night, as it overlooked the most heavily populated region of Germany, it was never more colourful.
Thousands of England supporters, along with hundreds of fans from Sweden, Germany and - strangely - Switzerland, congregated around this architectural masterpiece to create contrasting moods of unity and patriotism. Cologne's enduring past has, for 24 hours at least, merged into Germany's multi-cultural present.
Wherever England fans go they take over the place. That is one of first rules of the World Cup. Another rule is that supporters, any supporters, do not spoil the World Cup party with socially unacceptable behaviour.
However, while the vast majority of England fans have helped to make this the friendly World Cup in streets all over the country, a small minority here in Cologne reminded us that there is an undercurrent of violence waiting to emerge.
Yes, we have heard the "German Bomber" song and, yes, there is a fear among policeman that when things go wrong for England on the pitch the party atmosphere will quickly turn into acrimony.
One policeman, who refused to be named, told me that the authorities are quietly surprised at how well the World Cup has gone in terms of crowd behaviour.
"The police were nervous, for sure," he said. "But we wanted to learn the lessons of the World Cup in France in 1998, when there was a lot of trouble and a lot injuries, both to fans and police.
"There is a lot of good humour and a lot of happiness. But these are early days. If I am feeling the same way at the end of the World Cup, and that the humour and happiness is still there, I will be proud of my job and proud of my country."
The slogan for this World Cup is "A time to make friends".
Everyone, it seems, is making friends - even Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, the game's world governing body, who needs a trouble-free World Cup to ensure that the sponsors keep coming back. Blatter has been dogged by allegations of corruption but that is a different story for a different day.
All over Germany, and particularly in the 12 cities staging matches at this World Cup, there are Fan Fests, where supporters are encouraged to party in main centres, in front of big screens, and watch the matches live. So far, the experiment has been a success.
There has never been a World Cup as colourful as this one. For once, the best photographs are the ones of fans rather than the ones of players.
But, behind the facade, there is frustration; frustration that a large percentage of tickets are going to sponsors and, in turn, are being sold on the black market at significantly inflated prices. Officially, the World Cup organisers are checking tickets and turning away anyone whose passport details do not correspond to the information on the ticket. Unofficially, there are no such checks. It would be counter-productive.
Supporters are also frustrated at the excessive hotel charges. I spent a whole morning trying to ascertain the extent to which hotels, even the bad ones, are hiking prices.
It was frightening. For a basic room here in Cologne last night, with only a bed and no toilet, shower or sink, I was quoted e70 - about £40. I looked at the room and concluded that, under normal circumstances, you would not pay £10 for it. But, then, the World Cup is a time to make friends - and money.
It was worse in Munich for the night of the Brazil-Australia match. I was quoted e120 for a room that would barely make the £20-mark in, say, Blackpool.
On the trains, magnificent as they are, you can pay e3 for a glass of Coca-Cola (one of the tournament sponsors) or apple juice, which, in this large country, flows like running water.
Largely, the fans put up with the inconveniences because this is the World Cup and a lot of people would do just about anything to be here. Tickets for England matches are averaging about eight times cover price, which is about average for a World Cup.
At the World Cup in France eight years ago, tickets on the black market tended to go for ten times face value, even though the tournament is increasing in desirability, and security is tighter.
Perhaps the mere threat of turning away those people who do not officially "own" the ticket has provided enough of a deterrent to keep the touts in check. Nevertheless, at every main station in Germany, there are dozens of people holding up signs with "Wanted: tickets" written in black marker pen.
Those without tickets do not appear to be considering the financial implications of paying e300 for an England match against, say, Trinidad and Tobago which will not live long in the memory.
But, you see, it is not the football for which people are paying over the odds, it is the experience; the World Cup experience. It did not seem to matter that the England-Trinidad match was among the most dreadful at this World Cup. What mattered to one supporter to whom I spoke was that he could tell his son about the trip to the World Cup. We have become a nation of event snobs, and Fifa becomes ever richer as a consequence.
There have been no serious tests yet. England are in the second round. Germany and Holland are there, too. Everyone, for now, seems happy. Poland, whose hooligan fringe is growing in significance, are out of the competition.
As the days proceed, however, and the tournament heads towards its date with destiny in the equally historic city of Berlin on July 9, the happy supporters of England, Germany, Holland et al will possibly have to accept the concept of defeat. If the carnival atmosphere can survive even that, WM2006 will be seen as a great cultural success. Because, let's face it, the World Cup is becoming less of a football tournament as the years go by.