Fontenay is often taken as an example to illustrate the typical design of the cistercian Abbey. This is probably due to the exceptional state of preservation of the Abbey, but also because of its early date of construction and its architectural homogeneity. We can now think that Fontenay was one of the models used to define the cistercian plan later replicated by many abbeys of the order.
All cistercian abbeys repeat the same principles: A church adjacent to the cloister and the various rooms of the monks spread around this central space. In addition, work buildings are separated from buildings for prayer and life.