Which was the name of a legal institution within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy?
The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, in particular, the Cathars and the Waldensians. Other groups investigated later included the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites (followers of Jan Hus) and the Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, replacing the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges. The term Medieval Inquisition covers these courts up to mid-15th century.
During the Late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, the concept and scope of the Inquisition significantly expanded in response to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. It expanded to other European countries, resulting in the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The Spanish and Portuguese operated inquisitorial courts throughout their empires in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions focused particularly on the issue of Jewish anusim (a legal category of Jews in Jewish law who were forced to abandon Judaism against their will) and Muslim converts to Catholicism, partly because these minority groups were more numerous in Spain and Portugal than in many other parts of Europe, and partly because they were often considered suspect due to the assumption that they had secretly reverted to their previous religions.