This study demonstrates that proper spatiotemporal expression and the physical assembly state of fibronectin (FN) matrix play key roles in the regulation of morphogenetic cell movements in vivo. We examine the progressive assembly and 3D fibrillar organization of FN and its role in regulating cell and tissue movements in Xenopus embryos. Expression of the 70 kD N-terminal fragment of FN blocks FN fibril assembly at gastrulation but not initial FN binding to integrins at the cell surface. We find that fibrillar FN is necessary to maintain cell polarity through oriented cell division and to promote epiboly, possibly through maintenance of tissue-surface tension. In contrast, FN fibrils are dispensable for convergence and extension movements required for axis elongation. Closure of the migratory mesendodermal mantle was accelerated in the absence of a fibrillar matrix. Thus, the macromolecular assembly of FN matrices may constitute a general regulatory mechanism for coordination of distinct morphogenetic movements.