The cadherin-catenin complex is a conserved, calcium-dependent cell-cell adhesion module that is necessary for normal development and the maintenance of tissue integrity in bilaterian animals. Despite longstanding evidence of a deep ancestry of calcium-dependent cell adhesion in animals, the requirement of the cadherin-catenin complex to coordinate cell-cell adhesion has not been tested directly in a non-bilaterian organism. Here, we provide the first analysis of classical cadherins and catenins in the Starlet Sea Anemone, Nematostella vectensis. Gene expression, protein localization, siRNA-mediated knockdown of ?-catenin, and calcium-dependent cell aggregation assays provide evidence that a bonafide cadherin-catenin complex is present in the early embryo, and that ?-catenin is required for normal embryonic development and the formation of cell-cell adhesions between cells dissociated from whole embryos. Together these results support the hypothesis that the cadherin-catenin complex was likely a complete and functional cell-cell adhesion module in the last common cnidarian-bilaterian ancestor. SUMMARY STATEMENT: Embryonic manipulations and ex vivo adhesion assays in the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, indicate that the necessity of the cadherin-catenin complex for mediating cell-cell adhesion is deeply conserved in animal evolution.