Unpretentious but free, Hestad Chapel is at Øyra between Viksdal Lake and Hestad Fjord, which is part of the Gaular river system.
History has it that there was already a church at Øyra in the 12th century. From the reused material in the chapel, we know this must have been a stave church. It is first named in written sources in papal accounts from 1327, where it is described as «Capella de herstadum», whilst in the Bergen Kalvskinn record of c. 1350 it was called «Hedinstada kirkia».
The new log church
In 1805 the stave church was demolished and a new log church was built, partly of material from the old church. The nave and chancel are timbered. The porch, as wide as the nave, is of staves with exterior cladding. The timbers are oval-formed. The logs are regular and well put together. The church has tarred, horizontal cladding. Each side of the church has two windows in the nave and one in the chancel. The chancel also has a door to the north. A coarsely cogged board lies under the roof overhang. Before 1864, when the church gained its present appearance following storm damage, the tower was steeper and with shingles.
An area of 3 decares around the chapel is protected. The protected area was instituted to protect the area’s special historical and natural qualities.
Before the road to the south of the lake was opened in 1884, the lake was used as a highway and the church was centrally placed. In summer people went through the straits by boat and in winter they used sleds across Øyra. When the ice was unsafe, the straits, which never froze over because of the current, became the only place to cross the lake. In 1940 a bridge was built over the straits and in 1970 a road was built to the north of Hestad Fjord. This is now the main road up the valley and it passes right in front of the church. The exterior dimensions of the church are c. 13 metres long and c. 5.5 metres wide.
Parts of demolished building
The tradition has been to use parts of demolished buildings
when a new one is to be built. So we often find pieces of the old stave church where it has had to make way for a new church.
The tower of Hestad Chapel makes use of four sturdy staves from the stave church. The octagonal corner posts in the porch and a number of the knees must also have come from the same source.