Dzveli Gavazi is the name given to a church dated to the sixth century in the village of Alkhalsopeli at the foot of the Caucasus near Dagestan. The church has been changed since the sixth century, especially with the addition of an ambulatory that wraps around three-quarters of the building. The church was restored in 1852 and an inscription raised to commemorate this, and has also undergone restoration by the National Agency for the Cultural Preservation of Georgia. On the initial visit to the site in 2013 the church was locked and it was not possible to access the interior, however on a return in 2017 accompanied by Professor Nodar Bakhtadze, it was not only possible to locate the keyholder but also possible to take interior photographs of the building. This proved to be extremely interesting as each corner of the dome had a semi-circular rubble-built column at the junction between two lobes of the quatrefoil. The pendentives spring above these columns without an intervening capital making a clumsy transition that suggests a degree of experimentation. Interestingly the other quatrelobed monument in Kakheti, Ninotsminda in Sagarejo has its dome supported by the same arrangement of pendentives springing from columns without the intervening unifying element of a capital. Here we encounter the problem of the uncertain dates of both monuments. Dzveli Gavazi is attributed to the sixth century and the ambulatory which wraps around the exterior of much of the church is ascribed to the eighth century without any definitive reason for assuming these dates. Ninotsminda was believed to be an early monument, but recently there has been a move to suggest that it is not as ancient as previously assumed - although once again this discussion has been based on relatively nebulous typological grounds rather than being based on an archaeological or serious architectural resassessment. Given the ubiquity of the Kakhetian three church basilica in this region, Dzveli Gavazi represents a fascinating anomaly that requires further exploration.
Ninotsminda means St. Nino and is one of several locations in Georgia named after the evangeliser of Georgia. The church is one of the first four-lobed centrally-planned buildings in Georgia and is seen as part of the evolution of this type of architecture. The church dates from the C6th with alterations continuing up until C10th. The site is now the home to a new religious community who live in a range of buildings around the central church.