St. Michael's Parish Church, with its distinctive tower, dominates the town of Linlithgow. Lying on a promontory between the town and the loch, next to the palace, it is almost of cathedral proportions and considered one of the finest mediaeval churches in Scotland.
The earliest record of the Great Church of Linlithgow is its gift, in 1138, to the Bishop of St. Andrews by King David I (c.1080 - 1153). In 1242, David de Bernham, another Bishop of St Andrews, consecrated the church. However, in 1301, it was used as a store-house by King Edward I of England during his invasion, causing considerable damage. Further devastation came with a serious fire in 1424. The church was reconstructed over the next 116 years, supported by the Stewart Kings, giving rise to the present structure. At this time a crown-topped steeple was constructed, not dissimilar to that on St. Giles in Edinburgh. However, during a further restoration in the early 19th C. the crown was determined to be unsafe and removed in 1821. In 1964 a controversial replacement was added, which has been described as 'a wigwam without its cover'.
The Protestant Lords of the Congregation marched from Perth arriving at St. Michael's on the 29th June, 1559. It was the height of the Reformation and they vented their fury on the altars and fine sculpture, intent on obliterating all traces of the Roman Catholic religion. Only one statue survived, that of St. Michael, Patron Saint of both church and burgh.
There are fine stained glass windows, including one in memory of the oceanographer Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-82), installed in 1885, and another fitted in St. Katherine's Aisle in 1992, in celebration of the 750th anniversary of the church. It was in St. Katherine's Aisle that King James IV (1473 - 1513) had knelt before going to his death at Flodden. Today, many mediaeval features are still extant, including the remains of a holy-water stoup, panels from the original altar and mason's marks on the stone-work.